May is skin cancer awareness month. Since weather this month represents the start of summer for many of us, it’s the perfect time to get our skin care routines ready for the heat. Many people have heard getting back outside can be wonderful for mental and physical health, but making sure to avoid painful sunburns and poor skin health will make the summer that much better. Here are our top five tips on taking care of your skin even as the summer starts to heat up.

  1. Choosing the best sunscreen

While most people know that regular sunscreen can help reduce risk of some skin cancers, choosing what type of sunscreen you use is important, too. Some sunscreen selection can depend on your needs, for example, making sure your sunscreen is waterproof if you will be in the water.

However, sunscreen selection can also depend on the ingredients found in the sunscreen. Sunblocks that contain chemical ingredients like oxybenzone, homosalate and octocrylene have been linked in some studies to skin cancer risk. The Environmental Working Group recommends limiting oxybenzone to 2.2% and homosalate to 1.4% concentration in a sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens that are zinc-based may be a safer choice.

2. How to apply sunscreen

Applying sunscreen correctly can go a long way toward keeping you healthy and safe. If you are using a chemical sunscreen, make sure to apply it 15 minutes before actually going outside. If you use a mineral-based sunscreen it should work right away.

Make sure to use sunscreen on every part of the body that will be in the sun, even on days that appear cloudy. In the summer even an overcast day can lead to a burn. Most adults need about one ounce—enough to fill a shot glass—to cover every part of the body that will be exposed to the sun. Always reapply after you get wet or sweaty, as even waterproof sunscreen may wash off in these circumstances.

3. Avoiding too much sunlight at once

When it comes to skin health, limiting direct sun exposure goes a long way. Avoiding peak sun hours on bright days—10am-4pm—is one of the best ways to keep skin safe.Going outside in the morning or late evening can get you all the vitamin D you need, so avoiding the most direct exposure is one of the simplest ways to stay safe. If you do have to be out during peak hours, consider protective clothing and finding shade.
It helps to be extra careful around sand or snow since these can reflect sun from the ground up and add to a sunburn. If you plan to go to a beach day, for example, be sure to bring sunscreen to reapply throughout the day and a source of shade like an umbrella.

4. Skin-healthy foods

When you think of skin health, you often think about the effects of the sun on the outside. But what we put into our bodies is just as important for healthy skin. Consider eating foods rich in the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants we need to stay safe. 

Antioxidant-rich produce includes plants that are rich in beta-carotenes like tomatoes, carrots and apricots. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids like nuts, avocado, fatty fish and olive oil reduce the risk of sun damage.  that are rich in antioxidants like dark leafy greens and berries contribute to skin health too. Eating in-season fruits and vegetables can be even better for skin since these compounds are that much fresher. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially on hot days.

5. Soothing a Sunburn

In the event you do get a sunburn, the aftercare can be hugely important to recovery. One of the best things you can do for yourself is notice early if you’re beginning to get burned. Redness might not show up immediately, but at the first sign you’re feeling warm and uncomfortable getting to the shade can limit a burn.

If you get a sunburn, your recovery will be facilitated with extra rest, sleep and hydration.Taking it easy for a few days after and using a soothing salve based in aloe vera or soy can help with skin pain. However, it’s best to avoid fatty oils or cream lotions that lock in the heat. When in doubt choose an after sun product that promotes a cooling sensation. Taking ibuprofen or aspirin for discomfort can help with pain and swelling. Allow blisters to heal on their own without popping them. Cool baths or showers can also help relieve some of the pain and discomfort as well.